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“Buppies,” Tatyana Ali and the Value of Making a Web Series November 1, 2009

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
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Tatyana Ali plays Quinci, a socialite and publicist having a really bad day, in "Buppies." The show premieres Nov. 24 on BET.com.

Thanks to Racialicious for reposting this!

For my first post on black web series, including links to shows, click here.

From my Wall Street Journal post:

“Doing a Web series, working in this new medium, you have a little bit more autonomy, an ability to tell the story you want to tell,” Ali told me in an interview.

With a little help from Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment, Breece and Ali (and producer Aaliyah Williams) brought their show to BET. The result is “Buppies,” premiering Nov. 24 on BET.com. The show is BET’s first original Web series. It’s not the first Web series to feature a predominately black cast, but with BET’s promotion of the show online and on TV, it is arguably the most high-profile.

“BET was definitely not a part of my plan at all,” says Breece. “But a lot of black people flock to the Web for content. I just feel like it’s the new frontier.”

Full the full post, visit the Wall Street Journal‘s Speakeasy: here.

Some thoughts and more quotes from the interview below.

One of the things Ali and I discussed in the interview was how we’re in a moment where  TV networks have to realize the value of black content for capturing audiences of all races. Though I’ve written before that this may or may not happen, there are signs it may — as I mention in the article, Idris Elba, Don Cheadle and Aaron McGruder are all developing shows. Ice Cube, Ali noted, is following the Tyler Perry model with his show for TBS, Are We There Yet?, based on his movie. Ali (with Martin Lawrence, Bentley Kyle Evans, and Raphael Saadiq) are pursuing the same model with Love that Girl.

“I remember working on Fresh Prince,  we had a very wide audience, because the story was good,” Ali told me. “It’s about relatable characters, and relatable characters come in any color, any age. I mean, the Golden Girls is airing constantly and I watch it every day! I can completely relate to them.”

Buppies is an intervention in that arena. When show creator Julian Breece was shopping the idea around to network a few years ago, before Grey’s Anatomy he said, the networks weren’t looking for shows like that or they wanted to change it substantially. Breece and Ali — brought together by producer Aaliyah Williams — took the web in part to tell their own stories — also in part because it’s manageable and affordable. Ali seemed especially proud that Buppies could include gay characters, and Breece could write them mostly outside of corporate influence. A lot of the black web series I’ve seen have gay characters as leads, actually, which is really interesting: this doesn’t happen on TV, almost at all.


“I think people tell the stories that are closest to them, that they relate to the most. So I don’t think it was ever, ‘oh, we’ll do this black web series and it’ll be amazing.’ It was more like, ‘let’s tell this story with these incredible characters.’ I’ve never seen any characters like them treated in this particular way,” she said.

In general, Ali stressed that web series are about making her own opportunities, because those perfect roles for actors are quite rare; most just take what they can get. For black actresses, it seems to me, this is especially true. Buppies gives Ali a chance to glam it up, playing a woman who is both stylish and fully realized.

This is a very interesting moment in the history of black media, especially this fall. There have always been black TV shows and black movies. What seems to be happening now is black producers are putting money into making their own shows (yes, Tyler Perry, Ice Cube, even Wanda Sykes and Mo’Nique are listed as executive producers of their talk shows). Precious, of course, is an example of this effort in film; while Daniels’ initial benefactors were white, something Shadow and Act has been smart about pointing out, the marketing push for the film has been fueled by Oprah and Tyler Perry. We can even look to Spike Lee’s continual support of emerging black artists and his recent filming of Stew’s Passing Strange as yet another example. As I’ve written about before, black entrepreneurs, along with the likes of Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Percy Miller (Master P), are putting money into distribution sites for original web shows by and about people of color.

Regardless, history comes in waves, so who knows if this is even a moment, and, if it is, how long it will last. Still, some very interesting things are happen. I hope I can keep up.


1. Black Web Series and New Black TV « Televisual - November 2, 2009

[…] (10/22): The official site for Buppies is up. It’s great! Click here for more on […]

2. Black Television on the Web Gets More Coverage « Televisual - November 15, 2009

[…] Chick, whose creator I’d interviewed before, and Buppies, about which I’ve written for this blog and the Wall Street Journal. Brown does a thorough job talking to various players, including […]

3. Steve - Electronic Cigarettes Fan - November 17, 2009

This reads well. Do you allow guest posts? Nicely done, Steven.

Aymar Jean Christian - November 24, 2009

If you have a guest post, send it to me and I’ll certainly consider it.

4. tatyana star Ali - November 17, 2009

I’m going to have to check out this buppies show. at first I heard it was just a reality show but if it’s something scripted I’m a little more interested in watching it.

Aymar Jean Christian - November 18, 2009

It is, in fact, scripted, and in my opinion, quite good!

5. “Buppies” Review: Drama With a Light Touch | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture - November 25, 2009

[…] to Sex and the City and has been compared to 1980s primetime soap operas, as I learned in my interview with star Ali. The comparisons make sense, but, being made for the web, the show really has an […]

6. “Buppies” Review: Drama With A Light Touch « Televisual - November 25, 2009

[…] to Sex and the City and has been compared to 1980s primetime soap operas, as I learned in my interview with star Ali. The comparisons make sense, but, being made for the web, the show really has an […]

7. “Buppies,” Tatyana Ali and the Value of Making a Web Series | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture - December 1, 2009

[…] By Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, originally published at Televisual […]

8. Buppies, a new web TV show & source of inspiration for my new novel Love’s Troubadours – Symon: Book Two « Author Ananda Leeke’s Blog - December 30, 2009

[…] by Aymar Jean Christian, journalist turned academic who founded the Televisual blog : http://blog.ajchristian.org/2009/11/01/buppies-tatyana-ali-and-the-value-of-making-a-web-series. Christian is also doctoral student in communication at the Annenberg School at the University of […]

9. BizeeDiva - January 1, 2010

I really enjoy Buppies. I wish nothing but success for the series. It’s fun to watch, and I hope that, in the future, it can evolve into a longer-timed series or soap. It’s great to see such a series with people of color, and if I were in such a position, I’d be glad to invest in furthering the project. Who knows…
Best wishes!

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